Donald Trump vs. Cultural Imperialism

“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone…” ~ Donald Trump, Inaugural Address, January 20, 2017.

Yet this disavowal of cultural imperialism, in what may well be a first for a presidential inaugural address, is met with rejection and protest by certain quarters, including it seems most US anthropologists. Trump is up against a legacy that taught Americans that their prime directive was to go around the world, take people under their arm, and teach them how to suck eggs. One would think such an attitude violated the basic premises of anthropologists’ desire to understand, and not condemn, and least of all act as agents of cultural change in their own right–unfortunately, this is being revealed to be merely the sales propaganda of US anthropology. Everyone should instead be “on the same page,” in the terms of liberal universalism which, ironically, has been the ideological basis of the global fascism upheld by the outgoing elites: the fascism that demanded the uniformity and conformity of all who were subjected to the dictates from the all-knowing centre that pretended to know what was best for you. If this is the start of the collapse of that “New World Order” that George H.W. Bush invoked, then there should be much to celebrate.

8 thoughts on “Donald Trump vs. Cultural Imperialism

  1. Some quotes or cites would be helpful for those of us who don’t follow other anthropologists!

    I am terrified by the response to Trump by professors in the humanities and social sciences. Anti-intellectual rage, demonizing opponents, justification of personal violence against those who disagree with them. How do anthropologists fit in with this? Are there elements among these scientists who are fighting against the consensus (other than you)?

    What comes next in this journey by the Left?

    Lot’s of questions. Certainly I have no answers. Not even good guesses.

  2. We must clearly wait and see if Mr Trump will suit actions to words, and if he can do so, given the huge weight of the Establishment/the 1% in US politics and life.
    The worst feature of the “liberal” part of the Establishment , for many, is its hubris/smugness.
    The worst feature of the self-styled “anti-Establishment/drain the swamp” politicians is their crassness/idiocy. Waspish America is likely to live on for quite a time yet, with its immense PR machine suppressing constructive social thought and action; the “democratic socialism” which Sanders mentioned will almost certainly be quietly forgotten, and many of its apparent devotees will return to their comfort zones in “identity” politics and futile, if spectacular protests.
    Break the military-industrial complex ? Not on your nelly !! There is too much money involved for Trumpists or Liberals. Also prestige, or what passes for such in a widely corrupted intelligentsia.
    Will the new administration really have an impact on the ever-growing American Empire ?
    One waits with bated breath . Ironically, in any case, the “Yanks , go home” slogan is still heretical in the eyes of the “West”, so that Mr Trump will provoke the ire of his allies (I should say “friends”, in keeping with nuspeak) the Establishment stooges of NATO, the coalition of the willing etc etc. if he really acts to bring the boys home.
    Scepticism is mandatory in this case; it does not, of course, undermine a proper resistance movement, but helps to focus those who want change on the indispensable task of painstaking organisation ,rather than on flash-in-the-pan protests.
    A positive commitment to change will seem hugely thankless, with a generation or two needed to construct a strong ,democratic party. One must start now.
    Is there a budding Henry Wallace in the “Occupy” ranks ?

  3. To Fabius Maximus:
    I wanted to keep this short for a change, but if you were to look in Twitter at the accounts for a number of anthropology journals, such as Cultural Anthropology, FOCAAL, and their links to papers and individual anthropologists, plus check the previous article here and its links to anthropologists, you will start to get a picture of what I have been witnessing, aside from what I know of first hand.

    To David Marchesi:
    The abandonment of the program of cultural imperialism is, fortunately, *not* one of those wait and see issues. It either is abandoned, or programs are set up and people are hired. If anything, Trump is mandating a federal hiring freeze and cutting programs that do not advance the narrow set of goals that he has established. The establishment is indeed huge, but he is now its president. So I am all for scepticism of course, but one needs a fairly precise understanding of what one is being sceptical about.

    In addition, the fact that Trump’s victory has unleashed such a domestic storm that now Americans are fully at each other’s throats, they have fewer hands available for our non-American throats. So the winning position for the rest of us, is the default position, and Trump’s inaugural speech established a default position where international Americanization is concerned: do nothing. We win, either way. So on that score, I won’t be joining the long line of glum and sombre figures shaking their heads.

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